I think I was born a skeptic. Perhaps my skepticism stems from my fundamental distrust and dislike of authority figures. Or vice versa. As a child, I remember not being entirely sure that God was listening to my prayers every night. Why would he? I was aware of my cosmic insignificance. Something else I remember very clearly is the fear I had of going to Hell. I remember begging for forgiveness every night for my 'dirty' thoughts and asking for some kind of sign from God that it was okay to think such thoughts. Needless to say, I never got my sign. As I got older, religion just became less relevant to my life. I didn't stop believing, but I started questioning things. One evening my mother got very annoyed (perhaps even angry) with me because I had the audacity to ask her who created God. She regurgitated the ancient platitude that I was not supposed to question these things. I was suspicious. Anyway, the things that I cherished and embraced most as a child had very little, if anything, to do with religious dogma. I was in love with my books, my teachers, my schoolwork, my friends…boys. Religion just didn't fulfill me, or hold as special a place in my heart as did these other things. As I got older I began wondering about my relationship with God, and I realized that my faith had weakened. I decided that I was going to be a good Catholic for once. Every night before I went to bed I would pray the standard prayers (the ones I could remember from Catechism school, which were about two) and 'talk' to God. By talk, I mean murmur in my head hoping he would somehow hear me. I didn't ask him to protect my family or help poor children in The Congo. I asked him to give me the life I had always wanted and to give me career opportunities as an adult. All of a sudden I even had a desire to attend mass. Something I had never felt before. As a child I abhorred mass. It was boring, I had to wake up early, the church always smelled of cheap cologne, and nobody attractive ever showed up. Also, contrary to what some people may believe, mass did not provide my parents with a peaceful mind. They were constantly keeping an eye on me and my siblings and if we so much as muttered something during the sermon a death stare and/or tear inducing pinch of the arm would follow. I was especially terrified of my father as he would not hesitate to pull us out of church and do God knows what to 'teach us a lesson.' But as a preteen, I found myself actually asking my parents to take me to mass. It did give me peace of mind (the fact that I had a crush on the priest probably had something to do with that). However, this renewed piety was but a phase in my youth. In high school, I lost my faith again. No, it wasn't because I witnessed terrible things. It was because of one of the wisest and most intelligent men I know. My Freshperson (his word, not mine) year of high school, my Honors English teacher encouraged free inquiry about religious dogma. He had the courage to tell his students that Christianity was but mere mythology, like the stories of Zeus. I admit, as someone still stoking a small flicker of Catholicism, I was offended. How could he belittle faith in the trinity? Surely, the belief I had been taught as a child, the belief my parents held on to with a death grip--surely that belief was more legitimate than believing ancient Greek mythology to be true. I was wrong, of course. And over the course of my first two years of high school, I shed the last remains of my Catholicism. However, I still wanted to believe in heaven and hell. I couldn't let go of the unpleasant fact that people like Hitler would never get the punishment they deserved. I also thought it sad that we would never reunite with our loved ones. So I decided to believe (if that's even possible) that good people went on to another life after death in which they would reunite with all their deceased pets, relatives, and friends. Bad people would endure the same pain they inflicted on others as punishment but afterward would be reunited with their loved ones as well. That belief, like all the others that were in no way rooted in fact, dissipated. Around the age of fifteen or sixteen, I realized just how morally inferior the bible really is. I didn't like the fact that God had a gender. How can men not believe they are superior to women if their savior is one of them? I had completely lost my religion. I still held the belief that there was some sort of entity in the form of energy, but it was completely incapable of or indifferent to helping those on earth. That was my belief until about seventeen when I pretty much became an atheist. However, I seem to always be bouncing back and forth between being unsure of whether there is a 'higher power' (though certainly not one reminiscent of any religious dogma) and being almost certain that there isn't. I suppose I am somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist. I lean heavily toward atheism, but being the person I am, I reject labels and certainty without evidence so I don't refer to myself as such. I am interested in religion now, but not as someone wanting to be saved. I just think its history is fascinating. Also, I don't go up to others and try to convince them of my views. It's just not me. I won't even bring up the topic of religion in casual conversation. All of my closest friends are religious and they don't like me less because I am not. I love them and I appreciate that their religion doesn't make them bigoted monsters. They're what you'd call the liberal believers, I guess. That being said, I do wish to see religious faith disappear. It serves no purpose but to tear people apart. In the words of U.S. physicist, Steven Weinberg, "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." My hope is that people will replace faith with reason, nonsense pseudo morality--such as the belief that homosexuality is a sin--with actual morality that reduces, not propagates, the suffering of humans and other animals. I wish to see the intolerance and hate that is often the product of religion replaced with genuine compassion for humankind.
Losing My Religion
December 9, 2011